While you certainly don’t have to do wine pairing with your food, it can make for a fun (and delicious) addition to your dinner party. Generally speaking, the age-old white wine with fish and red wine with red meat holds up, however there can be some exceptions. Remember that there really are no rules, and if you love a particular pairing – go for it!
Pairing: acidic food + acidic wine
Sommelier for wine subscription service Good Pair Days, Banjo Harris Plane says a dish that’s high in acidity can turn rich, fruity wines into a drop that’s “flabby and lifeless”. He suggests paring an acidic food, such as pizza (or anything tomato or lemon-based), with an acidic wine. “You can still drink wines across the richness profile as this is often independent of its acid profile,” he says. “One useful guideline is to look at the types of wine favoured in the countries the food originates from. For instance, the highly acidic Sangiovese is one of Italy’s favourite wines. With hundreds of years of eating pizza and pasta and drinking wine, it’s no accident they have this match down pat.” Looking for a high-acidity wine? Try a pinot noir, sangiovese or a shiraz.
Pairing: spicy food + slightly sweet wines
Spicy food can be tricky to pair with wine, with many people opting for beer instead when faced with a chilli-packed dish. According to Banjo, alcohol is a natural solvent of chilli acid, so wine, with an alcohol content of 9-14%, can work to stop the burn in its tracks. “A slightly sweet wine such as an off-dry Riesling has some of the natural sugar from the grapes left over from the fermenting process,” says Banjo. “This residual sugar dulls the heat, allowing you to taste the underlying flavours in the food. And as a bonus, the wine no longer tastes as sweet, so it’s a winner even for people who don’t like sweet wines.”
Pairing: sweet food + sweet wines
A match made in heaven; sweet food and sweet wines belong together. Banjo says a sweet dessert will overpower almost all non-sweet white wines, with either a clash of flavours or a “lifeless” wine. “Ask for a glass of port, a dessert wine or even some sweet bubbly,” he says. “For those with a sweet tooth, it could just be your idea of food heaven. If this doesn’t sound like your sugary dream, then perhaps skip the wine with dessert or order the cheese platter instead.”